Never ending are the arguments over original intent regarding the founding documents of the United States. Living document or static? Fixed or evolving?
I grew up in a tradition where the Founding Fathers were regularly invoked in support of one kind of political position or another, often related to prayer in schools or another moral cause. Quotes along that line are well known. Among them are John Adams’s “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” Another is George Washington’s “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to a political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim that tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.” (Both quotes are found here.)
Such quotes are used to support a particular narrative of American history. Often unstated is the historical record of other statements in letters, speeches and addresses much less supportive of that narrative. These lesser known quotes from the founders are equally important if we want a more thorough understanding of how they viewed God and government, church and state.
“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
~George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792
“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes.”
~Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814
“Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”
~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” 1787-1788
“Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.”
~Oliver Wolcott, Connecticut Ratifying Convention, 9 January 1788
“I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799
“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780
“I never liked the Hierarchy of the Church — an equality in the teacher of Religion, and a dependence on the people, are republican sentiments — but if the Clergy combine, they will have their influence on Government”
~Rufus King, Rufus King: American Federalist
“No religious doctrine shall be established by law.”
~Elbridge Gerry, Annals of Congress 1:729-731
“God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government.”
~Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, 1773
“And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion and Governmentt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
~James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822
Pretty sure the drill instructor did not see this coming. Not from a million miles away. I have often said the power of a father in the life of a child is atomic.
Case in point.Read More »
Have you ever caught yourself looking right through something only to be startled by something else in your surroundings? This happens to me often when sitting in traffic or looking out a window into the yard. Ultimately a car horn or my wife’s voice brings me back to reality. Then I realize I was not really looking at anything. I was looking through it.
The Bible says numerous times in the Gospels that Jesus looked at the crowds or a person and had compassion. Jesus could not have had compassion on people if He had been looking through them; He was looking at them.
The most well-known story of compassion Jesus told is the story of the good Samaritan. In Luke 10 we are told a traveler was beaten and robbed while on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Two of his own people—Jewish folks—passed by without lending aid. These two were religious leaders!
Sometime after the assault, another traveler stopped to give him aid. The helper is identified as a Samaritan, a man of mixed heritage whom the Jews despised. He anointed and bound the hurt man’s wounds, took him to a place to stay, and made arrangements to cover his expenses. From this Samaritan we learn the costs of compassion. Usually the investment involves time, energy, and often finances.
This is Christ’s example of one person having compassion on another. Compassion is preceded by seeing people as God sees. We cannot live our lives looking through the people for whom Christ died. We must look at them with the eyes of Christ, determined to demonstrate His compassion whatever the time, energy, or financial cost.
Your can order The Gospel Project for adults, students or children on LifeWay.com. Here’s where you can read my early review of The Gospel Project curriculum.Read More »
My amazing and spectacular wife presented me with an equally amazing and spectacular gift for my birthday. We call it the Book of Stories. It is the most humbling gift I have ever received.
I will explain it in full later. Consider that a teaser…
One result of my Book of Stories is it spurred the desire to write a new book. The good thing is that I know the subject. The bad thing is so do a lot of other people. There are many, many related books on the market. There is a strong probability that I might just add to the noise rather than having an impact.
I want to write a simple, short book on influence. Specifically I want to write about the influence men can have on those around them from spouse to kids to friends to fellow Christ-followers.
There are many books on manhood; maybe you have read a few. Point Man, Tender Warrior, Disciplines of a Godly Man, Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart, Wild at Heart, and dozens more. It is not an unexplored area. Entire movements have been built around the idea of maximizing manhood or keeping promises.
There is nothing wrong with any of these and I have been blessed by several.
Again, perhaps my entire idea is just, to use an old football adage, “piling on.” Perhaps enough has been written.
Or, perhaps a different angle might help.
Ten chapters. Ten areas of importance. Encouragement not rebuke. A book any man would read, not just pastors or theologians. Depth without being a quagmire. Direction without the sense of failure some men feel after reading men’s books.
This is where I need your help. Man, lady or teen, in the comments name an area or two where men need the most encouragement to recognize and exercise their influence. I will use these, perhaps combine some and add to what I am already thinking or drop some of my thoughts altogether in favor of these suggestions.
Please comment here rather than Facebook; a Disqus account is not needed (although it only takes two minutes to create one). Commenting here will help me easily find your suggestions.Read More »
How do you capture the attention of the traveler who has seen it all? Make sure people pay attention to the pre-flight safety warnings?
I’m not sure if every Virgin America flight will feature this 5:00 video in place of “Please return your seats to the upright and locked positions,” but they could.
Virgin “enlisted the help of Virgin Produced, Director Jon M. Chu, Choreographers Jamal Sims and Christopher Scott, Composer/Producer Jean-yves “Jeeve” Ducornet, Virgin America teammates, and dance stars like Todrick Hall and Madd Chadd to give our safety video a new song and dance — literally. From the exit doors to the oxygen masks, no seat belt was left unbuckled.”
My favorite parts were the gal trying to buckle her seatbelt and Little Man. Yours?Read More »
In less than two weeks Ministry Grid from LifeWay Christian Resources will launch. Billed as “Training Made Simple” Ministry Grid is a customizable platform designed to help churches develop all their leaders, no matter the leader’s area of service. Ministry Grid makes training leaders simple. Content is available to leaders anytime, anywhere, while giving pastors and other leaders unprecedented insight into how their people learn. Launching with more than 1,500 training videos for pastors, staff, volunteer leaders, and every-day church goers, Ministry Grid covers, or will cover, every topic a church needs to effectively train those who minister from the parking lot to the pulpit.
The entire vision of Ministry Grid is based on Ephesians 4:11-13:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
Ministry Grid does not supplant the growth of disciples; it complements that growth. Indeed, it may serve as a catalyst for it.
The President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, Thom Rainer, said, “Ministry Grid was developed in conjunction with the leaders who will be using it. We assembled an effective training model we believe is applicable to any church. It utilizes three main components: skillful training, godly facilitators, and easy accessibility for users.” Vice-president of LifeWay’s Church Resources, Eric Geiger, also noted, “The Church wins when ministry is handed back to the people. I am excited about Ministry Grid and how it will help churches more intentionally invest in leaders.”
Ministry Grid’s Learning Management System enables your church to customize training to match the unique needs and goals of your people. Select built-in tracks, choose from Ministry Grid’s 1,500+ video sessions, or add videos to create your own customized training. With tracking and administrative tools, Ministry Grid allows leaders to assess an individual or group’s skill level, assign training content, and view progress. It is accessible from computers, tablets, and smartphones with a native app that allows offline training, so users can train anywhere, at any time.
Ministry Grid is for the entire church, with pricing based on your church’s average weekly attendance. Content is organized into four areas of development—pastoral, church staff, lay leader/volunteer, and personal development—with a wide range of topics videos averaging 15 minutes in length. Ministry Grid works with churches of any size and because you can upload your own content there’s no limit to how you can utilize the platform. Ministry Grid is also perfect for organizations and non-profits that are developing Christian leaders on matters relevant to their ministry.
Ministry Grid is unprecedented in terms of the quantity, quality, and range of training content available. Every aspect is customizable according to your church’s needs, including the ability to skin the site with your own colors, drop in your logo and church branding, and upload your own content. You may also choose to disable access to content not relevant to your assigned users. No other training platform comes close in its ability to perfectly fit your specific needs.
Yes. Ministry Grid features apps for iOS devices and Kindle Fire. The mobile app allows people to watch training content on the go. You can even download content to your device to watch when offline, and connect your mobile device to a project—perfect for churches that do not have wi-fi access readily available. The Ministry Grid app is a free download, but requires a Ministry Grid subscription to use.
The official launch is less than two weeks away, but you can still sign up for the Ministry Grid Pre-release here.Read More »
To the surprise of almost no one I was a Halloween baby and have endured “Oh, that explains it” for years.
It probably does explain a lot. All Hallow’s Eve, right? Day before All Saints Day? Is that not what you meant? I do not remind you of all saints?
Today I turn 50 and by all but the most generous of measures this life is more than half spent. Unless I reach 100 years of age, for every day I have lived on Earth I have less than one day left. This ratio will continue to build in a negative direction until my last breath.
It is not a scary thought, but it is a sobering one. I do not fear death, but its reality grows larger in my bifocals moment-by-moment.
Happy Birthday to me.
God gives us but a single take in this life; there really are no do-overs. We cannot rewind time even for a millisecond to right a wrong, get another at bat, rephrase a word spoken in haste, raise our children with patience instead of anger, or restart a marriage from the honeymoon. The old refrain “Only one life, will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last” gains meaning with each moment.
Personal mortality first waved at me when I turned 40. I saw it and gave a polite nod, but from that point I stopped viewing the end of this life as a blip on the horizon. Death moved into the foreground and planted itself. Solidly.
As has been noted by astute observers there are a few certain things in life. Death. Taxes. Death. Notre Dame needing to be crushed in every sport. Death.
Scarcely a day passes now that this thought or one like it does not cross my mind: “This day is gone. One more down. One fewer left.” Passing life by the workweek is a boorish existence even if life did end at the grave. For those of us who are followers of Christ the rising and setting sun reminds us of the brevity, sanctity and purpose of our handful of years. Or it should.
The challenge for the young is to avoid an unrealistically enhanced longevity expectation. Despite medicine advancing as it has and increasing numbers of people living to be 100, children still die all the time. Teens die all the time. Young adults die all the time. No believer should, in this world of death and dying, presume a long life ahead. Few see 80; many never see seventy; too many never see twenty.
Our years on this globe are threescore and ten. If by reason of diet and exercise (or a heart and lung transplant) we reach eighty we count such a one blessed. Eighty years against eternity.
Little wonder we are encouraged to make the best use of the time.
So, I approach the remaining years of my life not with sadness, not with anxiety, not with frustration, certainly not with despair. Rather, I hope to embrace them fully and walk them faithfully. Just because my days are fewer does not mean than cannot be amazing and productive.
Facing down these closing chapters I wonder if the biggest enemy of a joyous finish is not regrets about the first half. I have many regrets (almost exclusively related to my own immaturity, unwise decisions, bad parenting, and the like). In fact if I choose to constantly attend to those regrets it is likely I would never again know joy. Borrowing from the Apostle Paul, it seems “forgetting those things that are behind” is a good strategy when growing old. If you regret a situation that can be repaired, then seek reconciliation. If things cannot be changed, then move forward and trust God, as He did with Joseph, to work good out of bad.
My regrets, however, are few. I was raised by loving parents in a home that emphasized God’s word. Much of my formative discipleship took place in a church that emphasized God’s word. I’ve been blessed to teach and preach God’s word hundreds and hundreds of times. My wife and children are blessings beyond which I could ever have imagined. I experience “exceedingly, abundantly above all I can ask or think” on a regular basis.
I want to finish strong not because of a misguided desire to be remembered fondly or eulogized meaningfully or quoted positively. I want to finish strong because God deserves the glory it could bring to Him.
For me, that is reason enough.Read More »
The last week or two have brought with them a cascade of negative news about Obamacare. Almost every day I read of a friend or relative whose premiums are skyrocketing, policies are being cancelled, do not qualify for subsidies, and the like. So far, the sign-up process has had its share of troubles. Even President Obama has not been impressed.
What if Obamacare is not the worst thing happening? What if something was happening with the potential to dwarf Obamacare?
There is. And, it could.
Prior to the last election there was considerable talk from one candidate about problems with a policy called “quantitative easing,” sometimes called QE. It is a scheme by the United States central bank to create as much money as it deems necessary to keep our economy going in the short term. In the past few years our central bank, the Federal Reserve, has churned out rounds of quantitative easing frequently enough to use the names QE 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Also prior to the last election red flags were raised about the U.S. dollar and its unique place in the world economy. The U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency.
A reserve currency (or anchor currency) is a currency that is held in significant quantities by governments and institutions as part of their foreign exchange reserves, and that is commonly used in international transactions. Persons who live in a country that issues a reserve currency can purchase imports and borrow across borders more cheaply than persons in other nations because they need not exchange their currency to do so…As of 2013 the United States dollar is the world’s reserve currency, and the world’s need for dollars has allowed the United States government as well as US Americans to borrow at lower costs, granting them an advantage in excess of $100 billion per year.
Being the owner of the world’s reserve currency is a benefit to every American even when we are ignorant of it. A recent NBC story, “Passing the buck,” concurs:
Some 80 percent of foreign exchange transactions are conducted with dollars, and American money accounts for more than 60 percent of overseas reserves, the investments that foreign governments and banks sock away.
Oil is bought and sold around the world in dollars. Foreign currencies are measured against them. And when there’s a crisis, even one wrapped in red, white and blue, world investors seeking stability buy American green.
That means the U.S. government can borrow money cheaply, and it means Americans pay less for their homes and cars.
Now, what if we were not longer the holder of the world’s reserve currency? Rather than the dollar, what if the reserve currency were the British pound? Or, possibly, the Chinese yuan?
An article in The American Spectator this week posits such a scenario. Becoming the reserve currency provider seems to be exactly the play China is trying to make. Writes William Tucker:
Well, the Chinese here are striking at our Achilles’ heel — the role of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Let’s go back to Ben Bernanke’s “qualitative easing” and the argument that the national debt doesn’t matter because “we owe it to ourselves.” The fact is we don’t owe it to ourselves anymore. Fully one-third of our debt is owned by foreigners. China and Japan are the largest stakeholders, each owning 7 percent. If we just owed this money to American investors, we could just stiff them the way the government stiffed bondholders at GM and Chrysler — or the way savers are currently being stiffed by the Fed’s zero interest rates. There is nothing anyone could do except move their money abroad. (This is apparently already happening, since the U.S. is experiencing a negative investment capital outflow.)
But the real danger lies in the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. This is the legacy of our hugely productive economy during and after World War II when we played the role of world leadership. “At the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, the major western powers turned over responsibility for maintaining a stable world currency to the United States,” says Lewis Lehrman, the long-time advocate of the gold standard. “Unfortunately, it’s a responsibility that we haven’t fulfilled.”
In other words, the Fed is already playing with fire by inflating our dollars, but is reticent to treat China and Japan (not to mention Sovereign Debt funds) like it would treat us were we the only debt holders.
what “quantitative easing” really means is that we are dumping out domestic profligacy on the rest of the world. We go on running up debt and printing dollars and the rest of the world is forced to take them because, based on its former stability, the dollar still serves as the international means of exchange in 60 percent of world trade. There are now more $100 bills circulating abroad than at home. It’s the kind of situation that will go on until someone successfully challenges the dollar’s role as the world currency.
As holders of $1.1 trillion in American debt, the Chinese are the principal victims of our inflationary policies. So far, however, there’s not much they can do about it. In 2009, as the American economy was collapsing, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao warned “We have lent a huge mount of money to the US. Of course, we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.”
Of course, China is not sitting still to see if our Congress can figure out how to run the country and the Fed continues to threaten the economy. No, China is going for the jugular: the currency reserves. Tucker continues:
What the Chinese have been doing, however, is quietly building a financial infrastructure that would allow them and the rest of the world to free themselves from dependency on the dollar. They have suggested substituting promissory notes from the International Monetary Fund in world trade and struck deals with Russia and the OPEC nations to trade outside the dollar. They have established direct exchange of the yuan with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Last spring Australia agreed to make its currencies directly convertible with the yuan and has since shifted 5 percent of its reserve holdings into yuan instead of dollars. The Chinese are negotiating a similar arrangement with New Zealand. And now they will be moving into London and the European market as well.
All this may seem very distant but it represents an historical shift that could come about very quickly. “We hear arguments that China has a long was to go before they could become a major international reserve currency but let’s not kid ourselves. The process is already underway and a lot further down the road than most people think,” says Stuart Oakley, head of foreign exchange trading at Nomura, a global investment bank in Singapore. Michael Pento, president of Pento Portfolio Strategies, who writes frequently for Huffington Post, adds: “The No. 1 security issue we have as a nation is the preservation of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. It’s a thousand times more important than a nuclear bomb being tested by North Korea. Yet we are doing everything to abuse that status.”
There are people who believe such a drastic shift will not happen, or will not happen soon (see Yahoo News on the same subject). But if it does happen the results to our economy could be catastrophic. In the NBC story above, Barry Eichengreen, author of “Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System,”
estimates that toppling the dollar from its throne could cost the U.S. 2 percent of its economic output.
There would be a run on other currencies, and “there won’t be enough Swiss francs to go around,” Eichengreen said.
William Tucker suggests a run on the dollar internationally could costs Americans up to 30% of our personal net worth.
In late 2013 only God knows whether the dollar will remain the world’s reserve currency, but this is certain: if there is an international run on the dollar, the cost of Obamacare will be an ice cream cone in comparison.
A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.
–C. H. Spurgeon
Surely Mark Twain would be amused to find the preceding quote regularly attributed to him. Funny how that is relevant to this post.
A constant source of heartburn for this blogger is the ease with which bad information is spread online. It is easy to do because much bad information looks like good information. There are many websites purporting to be news or news-type sites. Many bad “news” stories are spread via social media without the veracity of the story being checked.
This is especially the case when the story is negative regarding someone or something the reader already opposes. There is virtually no story against President Obama some people will not believe and share. The worse it is the quicker it spreads. Recently I have seen these (among others):
A story about Muslims being exempt from Obamacare at the expense of the rest of Americans. (Here’s the urban legend as debunked on Snopes.com.)
None of these are true. Only one might contain a kernel of a possibility, but it is now conjecture. Yet in each case people spread these stories freely, sometimes hysterically.
Here are a few things to help you separate fact from fiction on the Internet.
1. Is the story being reported in major news outlets?
Some people are convinced the less a story is reported the more likely it is to be true. It is always evidence of a cover-up by the “Main Stream Media.” Except that it isn’t.
It is true that some news stories are broken on blogs or other social media. Remember, though, that all major news outlets exists to make money. Ninety-nine percent of the time they will catch up to a story because they want to have the readers.
Even if some outlets (CNN, MSBNC) are not reporting it, other outlets (FOX, Politico, Drudge, HuffPo) will.
2. Follow the links in the story.
This one is key to separating fact from fiction.
A specific bad content strategy exercised by some website owners is called “scraping.” It happens when the content from Website A is lifted in full and posted onto Website B. The entire story, often with pictures and links, appear on both sites identically. Sometimes Website B does not even give credit to Website A, but runs the article as original. (Here’s a good example.) This can actually happen multiple times with the same story as Website C scrapes B, then D scrapes C, etc.
If all the links are going back and forth between the same dozen or so websites, be suspicious of the story. Be doubly suspicious if the websites are Beforeitsnews.com, Whatdoesitmean.com, Conspiracytheories.com and the like. One urban legend I read this week had a link to Snopes in the story, a link supposedly to give credence to the legend. Apparently few people were clicking on the link because it was dead. If readers had gone to Snopes and searched for the story they would the truth.
3. Read beyond the headline.
Even good stories can be corrupted by lying headlines. Writers of articles on larger news sites are not always responsible for writing the headlines (it’s true). Often the writer of the headline does with the story exactly what to many of us do with the headline: scan and draw a conclusion. Do not do it.
This seems to be especially true with bogus stories. The headline is intentionally set up as a “gotcha” with the rest of the story following suit.
4. Does the website traffic in conspiracy theories? If so, pass it by.
It is true that a landfill contains the occasional rose but it is still a landfill. Some stories are shared thousands of times via social media from websites featuring stories about Area 51, the Illuminati, the Bilderburgers, the international Jewish banking cartel and how Michelle Obama was impregnated by aliens.
And we used to laugh when Grandma believed everything in the National Enquirer.
There are plenty of non-traditional, non-MSM websites and blogs that are accurate with news and fair with opinion. Some of them even lean left or right per your specific preference.
Virtually all heavily read websites exist to make money for their operators. There is no guarantee of accuracy simply because they hate Obama.
6. Check the date on the story.
Often, since people are only reading the headlines, they pass on a story that is several years old and has already been debunked a dozen times over. The date is not always obvious from the headline and excerpt. Click the link and check the date. It might clue you in as to whether the story should be shared.
So, does sharing of fictional news and urban legends happen often? Yes. It does.
In the case of the false Muslim Obamacare story (key word here was “dhimmitude”) a single Facebook post with the entire bogus story (already debunked) was shared more than 125,000 times. The story of the Obamacare microchip has been shared from a single website more than 227,000 times. Do you find it hard to believe thousands and thousands of times these bogus stories were passed along by Christ’s followers as if they were true? Me either.
Why does any of this matter?
It matters because followers are Jesus are supposed to contend for truth. We should pay attention to rumor, innuendo, and outright lies, to avoid them or debunk them. May it never be said of us that our political allegiances outstripped our commitment to God’s kingdom. Let us not carelessly traffic in lies instead of passionately contending for truth.Read More »
Much ado has been made in recent days about California pastor John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Michael Patton, a MacArthur fan, offers a critique of the conference, the book, and MacArthur’s attitude toward Charismatics, so I will not.
As a young pastor the first person to whom I ran for books and commentaries was John MacArthur. His radio program, “Grace to You,” was like a soothing balm amid many local church programs that filled the airwaves in the Atlanta area. In those days you could catch J. Vernon McGee, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, and sometimes evangelist Maze Jackson. The others were fine, but I really enjoyed listening to MacArthur.
In or around 1989-1990, as a young pastor I went with some friends to a regional Shepherd’s Conference in Conyers, Georgia. I was 26 or 27 and totally enthralled by the gathering. Hearing MacArthur in person was like heaven.
I do not remember whether the entire conference was on the subject of the charismatic movement (this was just a few years before the release of his book Charismatic Chaos), but it certainly came up in one Q&A session. The specific question had to do with hearing God speak. MacArthur said emphatically, “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard God speak to me.”
It was an odd confession, to say the least.
Fast forward to around the year 2002. I and another pastor from our church attended the Shepherd’s Conference at MacArthur’s Grace Church in California. Jerry Vines was one of the conference speakers. It did not appear those California folks had ever been exposed to preaching with a deep south flavor. The pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Mark Dever, was another speaker that year.
The book Wild at Heart was dominating book sales in the U.S. so naturally one breakout session was dedicated to all the things the church leadership felt was wrong with it.
During a general session Q&A MacArthur was fielding questions from the floor and again made a comment that he did not know whether or not God had ever spoken to him.
At that point of my ministry I still respected MacArthur but had moved from the worship phase. (Yes, dear reader, many pastors fall prey to worshiping theological heroes just as surely as your middle schooler has sports or entertainment figure’s posters plastered to the wall in their rooms. It is just as spiritually disorienting.) It was time to evaluate a man who had been a pastor, theologian, author and leader in a certain tribe of American Christianity yet, after all those years, could not be sure whether God had ever spoken to him.
Whatever he was selling the product, for me at least, had lost its luster. The appeal has never returned.
I do not intend a long excursus on the theology of John MacArthur nor on hearing the voice of God, but I cannot spare a lot of time for a man such as MacArthur who admittedly does not hear it. In light of his recent actions I suggest he should listen more intently.Read More »